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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

UFC 227: Beijing debut announced – and Zhang Weili wants invite to the party after dominant win in LA

As the latest Chinese fighter announces herself on the UFC stage, China’s capital gets in on the action

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 August, 2018, 11:40am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 August, 2018, 10:57pm

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced on Sunday it will make its debut in Beijing on November 24 and, half a world away, Zhang Weili immediately put her hand up for a place on the card with a dominating UFC debut of her own in Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old strawweight from Hebei took her record to 17-1 all-time – and 1-0 in the UFC – with a show of pure power and intent against Danielle “Dynamite” Taylor (9-4) at UFC 227, overwhelming her American opponent through sheer weight of numbers early on Sunday morning (Hong Kong time).

A star may well have been born on the biggest stage there is in MMA. Zhang took in the atmosphere, and the unanimous points decision, and then her thoughts then turned quickly to home.

“Fighting in the UFC is like nothing else I have experienced so, when I am preparing to fight, I feel more nerves but, once my music started, the nerves went away and I felt at home in the Octagon,” Zhang said after her arm was raised.

“I am very appreciative to the UFC for this opportunity. To show the world what Chinese MMA looks like is a very special thing. Last year, UFC made its debut in China and I would love to fight again in China if there is an opportunity for me to do so. I want to put on a great show and an even better fight than I did tonight in front of the Chinese fans.”

That chance should come on November 24 at Beijing’s 18,000-seater Cadillac Arena as the UFC returns to China after its sell-out debut in Shanghai last November. That card brought the house down as local fighters went 5-3 across the night – with performance bonuses being award to welterweight Li “The Leech” Jingliang (15-5) and bantamweight Song “The Terminator” Yadong (12-3) for their exploits, while featherweight Wang “The Dongbei Tiger” Guan (17-1-1) made a hugely impressive debuts.

It has been no secret since that the UFC has been working to make China a regular stop on its annual forays into Asia, as the MMA market across the country explodes – and more and more Chinese fighters start to make their mark on the sport, internationally.

“China is the next frontier for the growth of UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts, and this market is paramount to our success internationally,” Kevin Chang, UFC vice-president of Asia-Pacific said in a statement on Sunday.

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“We are excited to bring our next live event to China’s capital and show the world just how far we have come. Our loyal fans in China demand nothing but the best, and one year on since our debut in Shanghai, UFC Fight Night Beijing is set to be a night to remember.”

Zhang’s efforts at the famed Staples Centre in Los Angeles on Sunday would have already been tucked away safely in her own memory bank – and that of the UFC’s matchmakers. She came in to her UFC debut with a big reputation back home, built on a run of 16 straight wins in domestic leads – and on the fact that 15 of them came via knockout (nine) or submission (six).

The big question then was how she would handle the step up in class, against a fighter looking to win her way towards title contention. A few early combinations revealed Zhang’s superiority in terms of strength – and that question was put to bed early.

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The nuggety Taylor hung in there across the three rounds but was no match for Zhang overall, as the Chinese fighter dominated in terms of punches thrown and landed, and pretty much had complete cage control throughout.

Zhang’s impressive display means the UFC will be spoilt for choice for the Beijing card, in terms of local fighters, and the organisation will now look to roll out its fight over the next few months.

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